Being Politically Incorrect About Political Incorrectness

Once upon a time, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, which is to say in the early 1980s, political correctness was an ironical, self-referential way for those on the left to mock their own ideological pretentions. Later, in the early 1990s, the term was seized by those on the right to attack the left for supposed attempts to impose a rigid orthodoxy on the body politic. Politically incorrectness, therefore, became a way of declaring resistance against orthodoxy and conventional wisdom.*

Here’s my problem.

Lately, it seems political incorrectness has degenerated a bit. Preface any remark, not matter how vile or outrageous with “It might be [air quotes] ‘politically incorrect’ to say this, but. . . ” and you’ll likely get away with it. You’re being very brave, you see, and all politically incorrect.

The air quotes are vital.

So the other day I heard one of my nurse colleagues say, referring to Jamaican-Canadian peer, “I’m probably being [air quotes, always with the air quotes] ‘politically incorrect’, but I think she operates on island time.”

And another on a gay colleague: “I might be [air quotes] ‘politically incorrect’ but he’s that way because he had a absent father and a domineering mother.” (Amazing that particular chestnut is still out there. In 2010.)

I think I need to call bullshit.

Using air quotes and the phrase “politically incorrect” does not give you cover for spewing whatever empty stupid thought rattling around in your stegasaurus brain. Being racist or homophobic or whatever does not mean you’re being politically incorrect. It means you’re an asshat jerk, and no amount of [air quotes] “political incorrectness’ is going to fix it.

Unless you’re actually challenging rigid thinking or giving new insight on conventional wisdom, STFU.

Because I really don’t want to have to listen to you.


*The abiding irony, of course, is most attacks against “political correctness” effectively amount to a defence of conventional wisdom.


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  1. #1 by JennJilks on Saturday 27 February 2010 - 1048

    You go! I agree totally.
    I spent 25 years teaching in divergent Ottawa. The first 25 years living in downtown Toronto and visiting Cottage Country.
    Up here in Muskoka the prejudice is so blatant. We have a large Aboriginal community, with only a few new Canadians, many people who live in Toronto visiting here on a seasonal basis. You’d think people would be used to such. Bias and ignorance runs deep.
    Mind you, we don’t mind pointing out that many citiots visit us, too, from red-neck US & Canadian cities… they bring their biases with them.

  2. #2 by wilomis on Saturday 27 February 2010 - 1553

    Asshat is my new favorite word…

  3. #3 by mog on Saturday 27 February 2010 - 1628

    Oh I so agree with you. “Politically correct” is used to cover a multitude of prejudices and bigotry. What’s worse is that the people who use this phrase know that they displaying their prejudices and ignorance to the world and think they are being clever about it.

    The phrase is up there with “some of my best friends are….”

  4. #4 by Dr. Grumpy on Monday 01 March 2010 - 1536

    Agree. It’s now commonly used to cover up a racist statement. Which isn’t what it was orginally meant for at all.

  5. #5 by ilmhbpd on Tuesday 15 May 2012 - 1101

    I think you are exaggerating a little bit, yea I WOULD hate hearing, that quote being made as an excuse to say something. But they have every right to say it…and personally, it wasnt very “Politically correct” of you to judge and say those mean things about those people. They said it in the wrong context and might have been mean, but it is true..some people ARE gay for reasons being on how they were raised. But to judge exactly how it happened we can’t do, nor does it give an excuse to hate. Being honest though, is NOT hateful

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